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Researchers Identify Autism Genes

7.11.08

Researchers at the Harvard-affiliated Broad Institute have identified six genes they believe play a crucial role in autism.

Their study appears in today's issue of the journal Science. The Boston Globe's White Coat Notes blog reported on it:

The researchers studied large Middle Eastern families in which cousins had married and the incidence of autism was high. Genetic analysis showed missing DNA in parts of the genome linked to autism. They discovered six genes along these stretches that are part of the molecular network involved in learning and memory.

One of the study authors, Bullard professor of neurology and professor of pediatrics Christopher A. Walsh, offered hope that pinpointing these genes may facilitate the development of therapies to help children who have, or are at risk for, autism. "Sometimes the genes aren't completely inactive. We know that intensive training or enriching of the environment in animal models has ways of turning genes on that would normally be silent," he told White Coat Notes.

Read the rest of the Globe coverage here.

Read Harvard Magazine's cover story on autism, from the January-February 2008 issue, here.